JERUSALEM -- The Jordanian army has been holding "unprecedented" large-scale military maneuvers along the mountain ridge overlooking the Jordan Valley, Israeli government sources said yesterday.
The exercises, involving most of the Jordanian army, apparently are designed to demonstrate the kingdom's military readiness as the Persian Gulf crisis moves toward a "flash point," according to a senior Israeli official.
In response, Israel has maintained a full alert among specialized forces that would be in the forefront of any Israeli reprisal in case of attack by Iraq or Jordan, the official added. The Israeli military, however, has not called up any reserves, the official said.
In Amman, the Jordanian government would say only that its forces were on the alert, but it insisted that the military moves were not a preparation for attack but a defense exercise to prepare for a hypothetical strike by Israel.
The Israeli public has become unsettled in recent days by threats from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he would draw Israel into any conflict resulting from a U.S.-led military assault to drive the Iraqis out of occupied Kuwait.
The air force, anti-missile artillery and other front-line units have been on a constant degree of readiness. But reports that the Israeli armed forces were on a full-scale alert were overdrawn, sources said.
The United States is taking seriously the Iraqi leader's threat to draw Israel into any war, reasoning that by doing so he might seek to reduce Washington's support among such traditional foes of Israel as Syria, which has contributed troops to the U.S.-led gulf force.
[Meanwhile, King Hussein and the leaders of all major political groupings in Jordan have reached an agreement that officials hope will help ensure the survival of the country as it faces the prospect of increased regional turmoil, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
[Agreement was reached this week on a National Charter that would legalize political parties in return for their unequivocal recognition of the legitimacy of the Hashemite monarchy.]